This is a monumental matchup. The San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers are the two best teams in the best division in baseball, and both are fighting ruthlessly for that top spot in the division.
The Dodgers took two of three from the Padres in San Diego earlier this season, and the Friars are certainly desperate for revenge considering they’re just one game back in the divisional standings.
But the Dodgers are just as hungry. They haven’t been playing well recently, and there’s some internal strife regarding Freddie Freeman’s emotional return to Atlanta.
So, as two of the best teams in baseball prepare for a three-game set, who has the edge in the opener?
Read on for the starting lineups, betting odds, and my prediction for this Thursday’s premiere NL West matchup.
San Diego Padres vs Los Angeles Dodgers Odds
Of course, the Dodgers are favored at home. They’re the Dodgers playing in Los Angeles, they’ll always be favored.
But I wouldn’t look past Padre ace Joe Musgrove, who is on the mound tonight for San Diego. His presence alone may make the Padres worth taking at plus money.
The over might be a little low at 8 considering the capabilities of these two offenses. The wind is also projected to be blowing straight out on Thursday evening.
San Diego Padres Starting Lineup
J. Musgrove R
8-1 2.12 ERA
LF J. Profar S
2B J. Cronenworth L
3B M. Machado R
DH L. Voit R
1B E. Hosmer L
C J. Alfaro R
RF N. Mazara L
SS H. Kim R
CF T. Grisham L
San Diego Padres vs Mitch White
Mitch White is fine. The Dodgers are in the odd position of needing extra arms right now, considering Walker Buehler is on the IL for a couple of months and Clayton Kershaw needs consistent downtime.
His ERA is in the low-4.00s, right alongside his expected statistics. White’s managed a 0.3 fWAR in five starts and 10 appearances this season, meaning he’s been slightly better than replacement level in his role.
He doesn’t do much special, with White relying mostly on a four-seam fastball and a secondary slider. But his Baseball Savant page does paint an interesting picture. He may be slightly overperforming his current statistics.
Image credit: Baseball Savant
This Padre offense is intriguing. They continue to post runs, but the lineup card just looks sad without Manny Machado or Fernando Tatis Jr. in there.
For what it’s worth, the Padres still have the fourth-highest wRC+ in baseball over the past two weeks (125), relying primarily on a top-five strikeout rate and walk rate. Plate discipline is a good way to build sustained offensive success.
Moreover, it hasn’t been the bats driving the success in San Diego. It’s the pitching. That all starts with their ace, Joe Musgrove.
Los Angeles Dodgers Starting Lineup
M. White R
1-1 4.25 ERA
SS T. Turner R
1B F. Freeman L
C W. Smith R
3B M. Muncy L
LF C. Taylor R
DH J. Turner R
CF C. Bellinger L
RF T. Thompson R
2B G. Lux L
Los Angeles Dodgers vs Joe Musgrove
At Caesars Sportsbook, Musgrove has the second-shortest odds to win NL Cy Young (behind Sandy Alcantara).
Musgrove is a fun pitcher to watch. He pounds the strike zone, and has allowed less than two walks per nine innings this season. His strikeouts are down, but he’s got a top-10 defense behind him that’s helped with his ERA.
Musgrove isn’t totally overperforming, however, pairing his 2.12 ERA with a 2.82 xERA and a 3.02 FIP. But he is slightly overperforming, and perhaps that will play into the Dodgers’ favor.
But honestly, I wouldn’t be too scared of the Dodgers’ offense right now. They’ve been a league-average offense over the last month (107 wRC+, 14th in MLB), striking out at the 10th-highest rate in MLB during that stretch.
Thank god for Freddie Freeman. He may be emotionally distressed following his weekend home, but he has a 220 wRC+ over the last two weeks, which is better than every MLB hitter save six.
San Diego Padres vs Los Angeles Dodgers Pick & Prediction
My picks: San Diego Padres ML (+110 at WynnBet Sportsbook)
I believe in Musgrove. I also believe in a Padres bullpen that ranks top-10 in reliever ERA over the past month.
I don’t believe in the Dodgers’ offense. Despite the talent on the roster, this team has not been able to produce at a consistent level recently. Perhaps it’s the injury to Mookie Betts, but there is something slightly off about the Dodgers, who have lost three of their last five games.
With one of the league’s best pitchers on the mound and the team being offered at plus-money, I’ll be on the Padres in this one.